Whenever customers visit First Gear Engineering & Technology’s shop floor, they rave about how clean it is, according to company President Greg Leffler.
That outward representation of a clean and orderly business helps to demonstrate the extra effort First Gear puts in to ensure that its customers are its highest priority.
“We’ve always tried to approach business the way we would want to be treated,” Leffler said. “And that’s giving the customers more than they expect — every time. That’s our main drive.”
First Gear prides itself in putting the customer first, according to Quality Manager Greg Leffler Jr.
First Gear began as a manufacturer of internal and external spur and helical gears, splines, and shafts. First Gear expanded its capability to include finish grinding and skiving. Finish rolling of planetary pinions (service parts) for the automotive industry is also a service that not many gear companies offer. Job quantities range from one-piece prototypes or long-term contract manufacturing up to several hundred thousand pieces per year.
First Gear is a client-focused company that strives to be the best partner to all customers. It works closely with customers going over all details of prints to ensure the end product meets or exceeds all expectations in all aspects of quality and meets time requirements.
“We utilize the latest gear software suites from KISSsoft, UTS, and Ash Gear as well as custom software to assist customers with any gear or design analysis. Our customers can benefit from our years of experience,” Leffler said.
Here is what one customer had to say about First Gear:
“Thanks for everything you do for us,” said Andrew Hines, five-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Champion from Vance & Hines Racing. “The transmission shafts and gears that you knocked out for us in that short time-frame in the middle of the season really allowed us to make the most of our starting line launches. Without having the availability to change ratios in different track conditions, we wouldn’t have been as good as we became.”
With modern, up-to-date, automated CNC machines, First Gear can take advantage of all the latest cutting tool materials and coatings as well as carbide to provide the highest quality gears at fast cycle rates to keep costs down, Leffler said.
Although a large part of the business is “cut teeth only” for other manufacturers, First Gear has always produced gears complete to print. Until recently, all gear blanking was outsourced, Leffler said.
“We have been blessed to be able to work with good suppliers who have made quality blanks, but some markets today demand that all work is done in house for a variety of reasons but mainly efficiency and traceability,” he said. “We have purchased the highest quality lathes with bar feeders, live tooling, Y-axis, and sub-spindles to be able to achieve what some customers/jobs demand. We will continue to outsource or make in-house, whichever meets the customer’s needs best.”
ISO 17025 Recalibration & Inspection
First Gear is now an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory for master gear calibration, which allows for detailed recalibration of master gears and gauges. This accreditation complements the company’s continued commitment to the AS9100 Rev. D/ISO 9001:2008 quality management system as well as its registration to ITAR. It also offers a state-of-the-art inspection lab where it monitors quality closely as well as performs contract outside inspection services.
Following a Job
When a potential customer comes to First Gear, the company makes sure to approach a job with the confidence to see it through from beginning to end.
“We’re fortunate to have (General Manager) Mike Goza, who does most of the communications with our customers,” Leffler said. “He receives all the requests for quotes, and he reviews it with a team of people at First Gear to understand what it’s going to take to the get the job done.”
Part of that attention to detail comes from a shop floor management system that meticulously tracks a job’s status.
“We’ve got an electronic system, and every piece of information for each inquiry goes into this electronic file,” Leffler said. “We will quote it, and if we win the job, those details print out and are flowed down to the shop floor — every little detail about it, whether it be a micrometer or certain bolt, to finish the job.”
Over the years, First Gear has had numerous inquiries for bevel gears.
“Bevel gears are a whole new discipline, so we stuck to what we knew until we were confident we could take on bevel gears and do it right,” Leffler said. “As with everything, technology and machines have progressed to the point that we feel we need to be involved. We are now working on our first project, and when it is successful, we will be expanding into that type of gear business as well.”
None of these innovations will affect what First Gear is doing now and what it’s been doing for years.
As First Gear looks toward the future, it will continue to do what it does best for the gear industry, and that includes remembering its roots.
“My background is in racing,” Leffler said. “The race is going to start whether you’re ready or not. So, we plan smart and execute as necessary to be ready when the green flag waves. It is inevitable that the unexpected can happen, but it’s how we react that sets us apart. We have always done whatever it takes to get the job done and be there on time, and we still operate that way. We’ll figure out a way to be successful and get it done.”
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